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This week was really productive for me. I finished learning Scriabin Op. 11 nos 22 and 4, and I learned Busoni's 6th prelude, which is a chromatic chorale. I've also learned about half of Busoni's 8th prelude and am close to learning Scriabin's Op. 11 no 13. Since I was so efficient at learning this week, I had the chance to stumble-play through pieces I'll be learning in the coming months. While playing through Busoni's 16th prelude, I was really surprised by how fluid my lh octaves have become. Scriabin's op. 11 no 1 now feels within the realm of possibility for me, which I never thought would happen. As a PhD student my workload is about to really pick up, and the pieces are getting more difficult, but I'm excited. I feel like I can learn all of Scriabin's op. 11 preludes (with the exception maybe of no. 7) this year, and the Busoni pieces are mostly stretch pieces, but I'd be satisfied with learning a handful of them this year.

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This week I mostly worked on Scriabin Op. 11 no 13 and Busoni's 8th prelude. The Scriabin is easy, although committing it to memory has been difficult. The Busoni is perhaps his easiest prelude, but it is tricky in spots. Three times in the prelude there is a 3 against two polyrhythm--in the same hand. . .
On a lark, I opened up my Henle edition of Chopin's nocturnes and did a bit of practicing of the C# minor posthumous nocturne and Op. 55 no 1. To my surprise I could play these much better than I anticipated. With the C# minor nocturne, the main difficulty I'm having is the 35 note run near the end, so I've been practicing breaking it into chunks based on hand position and connecting the chunks. The Op. 55 no. 1 was a big surprise to me--I used to get daunted by certain works, as if the notes were a complicated math problem, and I would feel overwhelmed when I'd try to play them. It seemed like there was too much going on, like I couldn't wrap my head around all the places my fingers needed to be and move. It felt like for each beat I would have to hesitate and consciously decide where to put my hands. But I'm experiencing this less now.
I really feel like I'm on a trajectory where I can move into more sophisticated repertoire, and that I can make goals that feel attainable. The Op. 11 Scriabin preludes all feel doable (except perhaps number 7). The Busoni preludes are a lot more detailed and are stretch pieces. And I think I can learn several of the easier Chopin Nocturnes this year, which is nice since everything else I'm learning is so short.

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For the past four weeks I've been trying to learn Bela Bartok's "Penatonic Melody" (a very short piece circa ~1907), and I finally "learned" the whole thing (meaning able to play the notes with few or no mistakes). Now I can focus on improving via dynamics, etc.

I've been an adult beginner for 18 months now, and this was a very tricky piece. (Aren't they all!) But it's my first Bartok piece, my first modern classical piece, and I love the music and love playing it. Though very melodic and lilting, it also has a lot of minor chords and discordant sequences, in keeping with Bartok's fascination with Eastern European folk music (specifically Hungarian). It's so modern and abstract, almost droning, it almost could have been written by Phillip Glass.

It's very hard for me to get to this stage with any piece. I find it tedious to play sections over and over again to learn them, and I alway yearn for the day I'll be able to play the piece fluently. Inevitably I despair that I'll never learn it! I always do though, because my teacher is good at choosing pieces within my ability, even though they might look too difficult on paper. (I freaked out when he asked me to learn Bach's "Prelude in C Minor," but I was able to memorize the whole thing, even though I'm still only able to play it badly.)

So it's been a very good week.


Emily R.
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For months now I have been laboring to play "Thank you for the Music" by Abba. It was a special request from my partner. At one point, we even had words over it as he was less than supportive of my efforts. (Something about it being unrecognizable...can you believe it???!!! lol)

FINALLY - yesterday, I played it relatively smoothly and hit all the right notes with pretty good rhythm. I have developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with this piece. I really want to play it well and yet at times I have renamed the piece "Thank you for the EFFIN Music".

From today forward - I'm only going to play it with a smile on my face.

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Lautreamont- that 35 note run in the nocturn was a sticky point for me too. You are on the right track breaking it up into hand positions - at least that plus working on keeping my hand relaxed is what eventually brought some improvement.

Emily- Congratulations on getting the Bartok under control. Its sounds like you have a very good teacher. Its nice when you can trust the teacher to really understand your needs.

KrisR-
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At one point, we even had words over it as he was less than supportive of my efforts. (Something about it being unrecognizable...can you believe it???!!! lol)

Boy, have I heard similar "argh, what the heck are you playing, it sounds awful" type comments. Lol, non playing partners usually just don't get how hard this is, or how practice is not supposed to sound like a performance. When I get to the love/hate stage on a piece, it is usually a signal to put it away for a while and play something fun.

AOTW -I'm finally making some small headway on LVB's Pathetique. Practicing all those broken chords in left and right by first playing them as block chord progressions was the breakthrough this week. It really sped up my learning speed and solidified the fingering. So simple when we reach into the bag of practice tricks and pull out the right one. Also, successfully revived my Keith Jarrett transcription of Its All in the Game as part of a plan to bring back at least 5 pieces as repertoire. I had not played it for 3 or 4 years .. so far it feels like I have a lot more control over it than I remember previously.

Jim


Sonata Pathetique-Adagio LVB
Its All in the Game- KJarrett trans.
Gnossienne No1 E.Satie

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I'm really happy to start practicing piano again. Been a few years since I practiced properly, and I never left the beginner stages back then. Going through Alfred's all-in-one book 1 and currently practicing between 20-60 minutes a day (goal is 20min in the morning and 20min in the evening), currently about halfway through the book (Most pieces right now are very much review, so I get through them pretty quickly, I did have a piece just now that took me about 2 days to feel good about so I think I've just reached the point where I'm going to start to learn more) Honestly my main goal right now is just to get in the routine of practice without too much pressure, I'm in no hurry to get good.

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My achievement of the week was being able to dramatically increase my daily practice time by getting a new piano bench!

Old bench mad: https://www.amazon.com/Roland-RPB-100BK-Piano-Benches/dp/B0725KD919

New bench thumb: https://shop.pianoworks.com/hidrau-model-hidrau-model-30-hydraulic-adjustable.html

Seriously, my comfortable practice time has gone from 30 minute sessions to well over an hour. I was able to practice for 5 non-consecutive hours yesterday with no problem. Longest session was about 2 hours long which I didn't intend, just happened.

Crazy money for a bench, imo ($620 USD), but apparently worth it for my... uh, ample derrière.


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Schwa i so much relate to the need for a comfy stool!I’ve added a blanket and then a cushion but maybe it’s time for a new bench. Did you buy it through Pianoworld?


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I did not, Palmpirate, nor did I know that was a thing. I did find a youtuber with a 10% off code but I certainly would rather have gone through Pianoworld.


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This week my main accomplishment has been technical. I've always struggled with the dreaded flying pinky. Last year as a part of my project to improve my left hand, I all but eradicated it in that hand, but my right hand has been recalcitrant, bearing a lot of tension. This week I've really worked on reducing tension and spotting where the issues arise. In just a week's work, it's already much better. The opening of Bach's 5th prelude in D major in the WTC used to send my pinky into a flying frenzy, and practicing Chopin's runs in the end of the C# minor Nocturne Op. posth. would do something similar, as well as scales like G major with the 4th finger on F#. I've come up with a relaxation technique in slowish practice that seems to be working very well. Another thing that has traditionally set off finger flying/jerking is a mordent fingered 2-4-3 (which I see a lot of in Busoni's 7th prelude), and suddenly that's better as well. I haven't mastered anything I'm working on, but I feel a lot smoother in places where my hand has been obviously tense (like the grace notes in Chopin's c minor posthumous nocturne).

My most ambitious goal of the year is to learn a Godowsky Etude for the left hand alone, and I've been playing around with the one for the revolutionary etude. It begins with a fast two voiced descent down the keyboard. I've been able to play it but inconsistently. Working on relaxation today (lifting my hand after connecting notes, letting the fingers go limp, noting when they're not and why), has helped quite a bit--in refining something I've sort of been manhandling my way through, spotting and reducing tension. The next spot is a page on the second page where there's a kind of back and forth rotation that I've been doing rather inelegantly--so breaking it down, seeing where what I'm doing is problematic.

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My AOTW is bittersweet. My mom will turn 100 years old in two weeks. She lives in an assisted living facility in another state. She (and all the other residents) have come down with Covid-19 within the last two weeks.

I talked to her on the phone today, and told her I had been practicing the piano before I called her. She asked me to play for her, over the phone, so I did. Mendelssohn, Songs Without Words, Op. 85 no. 1. She enjoyed it.


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Sorry to hear about your Mom, Stubbie. Wishing her a full and speedy recovery.

All my best,

Jim


Sonata Pathetique-Adagio LVB
Its All in the Game- KJarrett trans.
Gnossienne No1 E.Satie

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Thanks, Jim. She's a real trooper, so we are keeping our fingers crossed.

During that same phone conversation, she told me about her mother teaching piano during the Great Depression. I think it must have been under the auspices of something like the WPA, because my mom mentioned a government program. She said her mother had one woman who quit after the second lesson because the woman thought she ought to be able to play most anything at that point. Some things don't change!


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Hi Friends,
How nice to visit here and hear everyone’s progress.
I try to come back and post something at least once in a month.

I noticed that Jim and Cheryl saying that this is their 11th year after joining the forum (= starting or restarting piano seriously). I perhaps am reaching the milestone as well. It makes me reflecting on my piano journey over the past 11 years. I thought I would be a fantastic piano player if the continued for 10 years. Well, it did not happen. For one thing, the journey was not as smooth as I wished. Off and on is best description that I can give. Sometimes I could not touch a piano for weeks and I could not make progress as I wanted. Work took priority over piano.

As someone mentioned that life could take unexpected turns. Many things happened over the years since joining the forum. I never thought I would be the sole breadwinner of a family and primary supporter of my mother. I was a selfish irresponsible and unreliable person in my youth. I never imagined that I was taking care of anyone. However, the economic climate changed harshly for those people don’t have requisite skills, made series of wrong choices, with health issues or simply unlucky. Both my brothers and my husband fell into the category. I just have been lucky enough to be in a demanded field. I don’t take care of brothers. But I help my mom and of course my husband. I have been feeling huge pressure to keep up with best performance to earn enough money for all of us. If a report is due tomorrow and I’m not done, I stayed up all night to do it. Piano had to take second seat.

Not any more though. It almost ruined my health too. I decided to step down from management role now. I have 3 more years to my retirement and I am slowing down. I will practice more now. I have a dream. I would like to give a little concert to celebrate the end of my professional life. Thank you for reading my long “hello again” post.

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Good to hear from you again, FarmGirl. It sounds as though you have been carrying a heavy load as of late. For your current and future health, I'm glad you decided to take steps to put your life on a more sustainable course. The piano concert sounds like fun--assuming you like to perform in public!


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Thank you, Sttubie,
Yes, I am not good at it but I love performing in front of people.
I’m gifted with sort of a carefree spirit. I don’t dwell on my mistakes. I only remember what I did good.

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Farmgirl!

Its so nice to hear you will get a chance to relax a little more with your piano after carrying such a heavy load for so long. You were always a great inspiration to me because of that can-do attitude... leave the ego at the door and just get on with it...and have some fun! And yet you always set the bar pretty high. To me you were already a good pianist a decade ago, so I don't doubt for a moment that if you want to be "great", whatever that means, you will get there.

Welcome back (although I know you never really left us)

Jim


Sonata Pathetique-Adagio LVB
Its All in the Game- KJarrett trans.
Gnossienne No1 E.Satie

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Thinking of your mom Stubbie and wishing her the very best

FarmGirl, good to hear from you and I'm glad that you are making changes to take care of yourself after carrying such a heavy load taking care of everyone else


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This week I joined Piano Career Academy! I'm really excited about it smile


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Maria, congratulations! Good luck for your study. Are you going to be a piano teacher?

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